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Meet the writer – Robyn Osborne

Every week I like to feature an Australian writer and illustrator in PASS IT ON.

Now with the illustrators, once they have been featured in the ezine, I upload their interview onto a blog.

The writers that I’ve interviewed don’t have a blog of their own so I thought I might upload their interviews here. I won’t be able to go back to the beginning but I hope to fill this space with interesting insights into some of our wonderful writers.

So here we go, please meet….

 

Robyn Osborne

This interview first appeared in PASS IN ON on Monday 1st February 2016 – issue 572

 

When did you know that you were a writer?

From an early age I enjoyed reading, writing and creating fantasy worlds. My parents were both avid readers and encouraged my love of books. At the start of high school, my choice of authors such as Steinbeck, Orwell, Huxley and Tolkien got my creative juices flowing, much to the disbelief of my Grade 9 English teacher. After presenting her with a beautifully crafted story about an orphan wolf, I was accused of copying from a book. She couldn’t believe a 14 year old could have written so well. Although this happened many years ago, this unfair accusation still rankles and made me aware of the damage that unfeeling comments from teachers can do! Luckily, my Grade 12 English teacher was much more supportive and encouraging. Long years in the public service stifled my creative flame, but on my return to university in my thirties, I re-discovered my love of writing. I also made sure my wonderful Grade 12 English teacher received a complimentary copy of my very first published book.

When did you first read your writing aloud or give it to someone to read and what was their reaction? How did it impact on you?

I hate reading my writing aloud, especially to family and friends. I do recall giving some of my angst ridden teenage poems to the English teacher when I was in Grade 12. He must have seen some merit, as one was published in the Nambour High School Yearbook of 1976! I guess this counts as my very first piece of published writing, albeit unpaid.

What and when was your first acceptance? How did you feel?

After completing my first junior manuscript about a boy who desperately wanted a dog, I sent it off to a number of publishers, who promptly responded with a negative, or didn’t respond at all. The record for the longest response time I received from a publisher was just over five years, which I have to say is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the decision was still no. I sat down, re-wrote the story as first person, cut out lots of the descriptive guff and re-submitted to Macmillan Education. To my surprise they said yes and D.O.G. was published in 2005.

What is your favourite genre to write? Why?

I would describe myself as a children’s/YA author, however I have also written adult stories. There is certainly a canine theme running through my writing, and while my husband thinks it’s time to ditch the dog (figuratively speaking), my animal obsession is a big part of who I am.

How long have you been writing? And what have you written?

My published books are D.O.G., (2005, Macmillan). Next came Dog Logic: a pooch’s guide to dogs behaving badly, (Big Sky Publishing, 2010) which was co-pawthored by my clever canine companion Sox.  Dog Logic is a training manual with a twist – it is written from a dog’s point of view.  Sox continues his literary career as a columnist in the Kids Club section of Dog’s Life magazine and he also has his own Facebook page – which is remarkably clever of him, considering he moved on to the Rainbow Bridge in 2012 at the ripe old age of 14. My other dog, Snowy was not to be outdone and in November 2014 Midget Bones’ Diary was published by Puppy Care Education. Midget Bones’ Diary is a witty, winsome memoir and follows in the paw steps of Bridget Jones, with a touch of ‘Jackie’ Collins and a large dose of Lassie thrown in. 2014 was a big year for me, as my first picture books were also published; Going Fishing & Going Camping (Big Sky Publishing). Can I add that all these books were trade, not self-published, without sounding too elitist? I do get a little tired of people assuming I have gone down the self – publishing route, especially snooty book shop owners. I have also had short stories and articles published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies.

Of your own work – do you have a favourite? Why is it your favourite?

Being my first published book, I have a soft spot for D.O.G. I also love the fact that my two beloved dogs, Sox and Snowy continue to live on through their respective books. My current dog Jack is keen to put claws to computer, so who knows what will come out of the Osborne household in the future.

What is your favourite genre to read? Why?

I am happy to read just about anything, as long as it is well written. I do enjoy a good historical fiction.

Do you have a favourite author?

Where do I start? Bill Bryson’s humorous take on life always lifts my spirits. I also love Mary Renault’s Alexandra the Great trilogy, as well as the Arthurian books by Mary Stewart.  Also Hilary Mantel and Salman Rushdie…the list goes on.

Do you write full time?

Oh, what a joy to be a full time writer…and actually be able to afford to feed Jack the dog. No, I haven’t given up my day job (see below). I do recall a moment at one of my schools, when the Principal told me they were ordering a set of my (then) newly published novel, D.OG. I was feeling rather proud and pleased with myself, until I worked out the royalties from this sale would just about pay off my chocolate account at the school. I think it was then I realised that life as a full time writer wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

What are your other jobs?

I am a primary teacher and have recently gone into Special Education.

Have you ever won an award/s or been shortlisted? What was it for?

I was lucky enough to be one of eight participants chosen nationally to attend QWC/Allen & Unwin’s Manuscript Development in 2011. I have also won awards in a number of writing competitions. In 2009 my picture book manuscript, ‘Going Fishing’ received a Highly Commended at the CYA (Children’s and Young Adult Writers And Illustrators Conference) in Brisbane. This is the story that has since been published, so the judges obviously had good taste. Interestingly, my other manuscript, ‘John’s Blanket’ won first place, but is as yet unpublished (but I live in hope).

Do you belong to any professional organisations? What are they and how do they help you?

I am a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Qld Writers Centre (QWC).  I also subscribe to two excellent writing e-zines; Pass It On and Buzz Words.

Do you run writing workshops? What do you include? 

I have run workshops at libraries, most recently in Brisbane for children during the Christmas holidays. After reading my two picture books, we got down to the business of unpacking what makes a narrative. The kids were very enthusiastic – right up until they had to put pencil to paper! I do think writing should be a fun activity, rather than a chore, so we continued with lots of oral discussions instead.

How might you be contacted in relation to running workshops or for school visits?

The best way of contacting me is through my website Robyn Osborne

We all know that would be writers should read and write as much as possible – do you have any other advice?

At our house, we are all a bit obsessive with our reading. Once a book is started, everyday life simply gets in the way of reading. Same thing applies for writing. When I’m in the writing zone, the real world seems to disappear.

How might people find you? Website, Blog, Facebook etc.

My website is Robyn Osborne

Sox ‘The Philosophical Pooch’ also allows me to use his Facebook page from time to time.

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